Welcome to Sunshine and Stilettos!
A collection of stories and images from my journey as a traveler, serial expat, lover of culture and lawyer turned travel photographer and writer.
Born in Ethiopia and raised in Côte d’Ivoire, I had my first passport by age six, lived on three continents, and survived three school systems (French, British, American).
In 2008, I decided that life was too short not to do work I love every single day. I took a leap of faith and left my Washington DC legal career behind after seven years of practice at a prestigious firm. I traveled long term to the Caribbean – six weeks was the initial plan – to rest and find inspiration. Six weeks turned into five months. Five months led me to a completely new path.
During the last ten years, traveling long term and away from home (what they call “a digital nomad” today) – living in tropical countries like Jamaica, Grenada, Belize, and the Dominican Republic – I discovered my deep-rooted love for writing and photography, and for documenting life, culture and people in different parts of the world. I had finally figured out my purpose: to tell stories, to show immersive ways of exploring places, through words and images.
Becoming a travel photographer, writer and guidebook author
Sunshine and Stilettos launched in 2009. My initial aim was to share photographs and stories with friends and family about my life as a solo female traveler on the road. At the time I named my blog, I loved the sun, representing all things happy and warm like the country in West Africa where I was raised. And yes — I loved stilettos too. Like I said, at the time… !
Over the years, my blog and Flickr collections grew from being a past time to attracting tourism boards, photo editors as well as a wide audience of avid travelers.
A year after being on the road and landing assignments as a self-taught photographer, my images were published online in the UK Guardian, and in print on Lonely Planet Travel Magazine. A few months later, I was commissioned for a major photo shoot for the Grenada Tourism Board.
In 2010, I took a travel photography course to enhance my knowledge on the business of photography – from social networking to publication.
In the summer of 2011, I traveled across Belize for three months as a full-time writer, blogger and photographer for the Belize Tourism Board. I realized that I wanted to write as much as photograph.
All of these experiences and hard work led to a bigger road and a big break: becoming a travel guidebook author for Moon Travel Guides (Hachette Book Group). My first edition of Moon Belize (back then under Avalon Travel/Perseus Books) published in November 2013, in full color for the first time. I also had the pleasure of landing the book cover photo, in addition to providing all inside photographs.
In 2013, on the heels of my first guidebook, I began authoring a second title for Moon Guides, Moon Belize Cayes, focusing on Belize’s offshore islands. More recently, in March 2015, I was assigned to write a first edition of Moon Dominican Republic, to be released in Fall 2016. I am currently wrapping up a second edition for 2019.
Aside all my guidebook work, I’ve had the honor of taking on several travel writing and photography assignments — from print to web, front of book to feature articles — as well as editing for major publications. My work has been published in several outlets, including CNN Travel, MorningCalm Magazine, BBC Travel, AFAR, New York Magazine, Delta Sky, Every Day With Rachael Ray, and more. My blog has also been featured in publications, including AFAR.
In 2016, I was honored with the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s Marcia Vickery-Wallace Award for Excellence in Journalism — a highlight of my career. Later came more recognition, for which I remain grateful.
Among my more recent successes is signing on the Dominican Republic Tourism Ministry (Go Dominican Republic) as a client. I was hired through their public relations agency BvK to strategize, and write from scratch 100 percent of the content for their newly redesigned website GoDominicanRepublic.com, launched in 2019. I was commissioned additional brochure content work after that.
Another recent client is the Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA), who hired me as Editor in Chief of Destination Belize Magazine — released October 2018 — Belize’s number one tourism publication, distributed in all hotel rooms in Belize, as well as overseas consulates and at international trade shows.
To look back at my blog and see all the progress and opportunities that have come since its creation is pretty incredible, and a reminder of the power of doing what you love and living on purpose.
My blogging philosophy
Sunshine and Stilettos will continue to be a place to inspire cultural and adventure travel, as well as responsible travel – to the Caribbean and beyond, to places I visit around the world. I write about what moves and don’t necessarily stick to “top 10” lists. I believe in variety, and every week won’t be the same. My purpose is to pull you into my screen and make you feel as if you’re right there with me. To show that the world is a beautiful place, and much safer than people believe, even for solo female travelers.
When my visits are sponsored, I will clearly state this. Rest assured that I only post positive reviews when I truly back a place or activity.
My mission remains to share and show the beauty that surrounds, reflected in the people and cultures I encounter. To push for responsible and immersive travel — because our presence impacts every place we visit, and giving back is just as important as receiving. And last but not least, I hope to show that it’s never too late to pursue the kind of work that you truly love.
Blog highlights: Start here
To view my most-read blog articles and get a sense of Sunshine and Stilettos, please click here.